Hämärä – Ivory Tower
Hämärä is a Symphonic Metal band from Castle Rock, Colorado, formed in 2006. Heavily influenced by Scandinavian bands, their name describes the transitional time from day to night. We would probably go with dusk in English, but Hämärä just sounds better, so kudos to these guys for making a great choice! There is a lot more to this band than simple, symphonic music. There are elements of Power and Progressive Metal, as well as Death Metal, Nu-Metal, and Melodic Metal.
- Josh Ruff – Lead Vocals/Bass
- Aaron Schug – Vocals/Guitars
- Austen Couch – Guitars
- Tony Molieri – Keyboards/Synth/Orchestration
- Orlando Manzanares – Drums
- Across the Hills Of Emyn Muil
- Holy War
- Hardly Awake
- Under The Sun
- Withering Away
- The Fallen
- Ivory Tower
Right from the beginning, we get the feeling this will be an epic soundtrack to a journey of self-discovery. The lead track is a short instrumental called “Across The Hills Of Emyn Muil.” The tone is that of an army setting off for battle. The kick into “Holy War” is killer. The style goes from symphonic preparation for the struggle to a massive riff that immediately throws you into the fray.
There are two vocalists who use differing vocal styles. One is all harsh, and the other combines harsh and clean. They switch back and forth rapidly, transitioning beautifully, never stepping on each other. The guitars are fast and heavy, reminding me a lot of Amorphis and Omnium Gatherum. The rhythms are just as bold, filling the rest of the sonic space as premier instruments, not just a rhythm section.
In “Hardly Awake,” the drums weave through blast beats and melodic phrases, shifting expertly from one to the other. The bass gallops along with the riff, rounding out the sound well. Lyrically, the album seems to be an internal struggle with the light and dark, good and evil within. External forces also factor in, but the main point feels personal, not a clear-cut hero vs. enemy story.
“Isolation” opens with a great guitar riff and excellent drum work. The bass is a killer, heavy support to the riff, augmenting it with a thunderous tone that powers the whole song forward. The shifts from clean to harsh vocals are well done, mirroring life’s struggles with the yin and yang. The keys on this track are almost subliminal, though they do play a very prominent part of the song after the guitar solo, helping to take the song from the bridge to the end.
“Under The Sun” gives off some serious Bullet For My Valentine vibes in some of the riff work, and the vocals even go a bit Matt Tuck at points, but it’s not the whole song, just a few sections. I also hear a very Andrea Ferro tone to a couple of the screams at the start of the song. There are some Gothic Metal influences on this disc, so I would guess at least one of the members likes Lacuna Coil. All of this shows that heavy music is all tied together.
Another facet of “Under The Sun” that is of note is the Industrial keyboard tones scattered throughout. We get them up front in the intro that leads to the initial screams, then again towards the end of the song, bringing the song full circle, closing it at the same place it opened. As good as many of the songs on this album are, “Under the Sun” jumps out as an early favorite. I hear so many things I like that it is impossible not to return to this song repeatedly.
“Retribution” and “Withering Away” both bring a lot of melodic sensibility to the record while keeping all the heaviness of the other tracks. The struggles continue lyrically. Part of these tracks is about relying on others to assist with the battle and being unsure if this is a good idea. Maybe I’m just hearing that because it’s what I’m currently going through, but I’m finding I relate to much of this, both the internal and external battles this person is facing.
“The Fallen” opens with a fantastic melodic guitar riff made heavier by a massive rhythm. That bass line is stunning, and the drums augment the whole thing with some killer variable footwork. The shift to acoustic guitar with backing strings at the bridge is executed beautifully, transitioning the song into and out of the main section. Once again, the keyboards stay in the background much of the time, stepping out front at pivotal moments, highlighting those phrases that need to be made a bit more prominent to reinforce the critical nature of the composition.
The album concludes with “Ivory Tower,” a melodic track that favors keyboards in the early segments. The galloping drum/bass lines are a lot of fun to hear. The track shifts a few times, changing tempos and tones, giving the chorus a different feel than the verses and bridge. There is a bit of a techno feel to this one in a couple of sections and a couple with a bit of a neo-classical feel.
Compositionally, this is a very complex band. They run the gamut of much of the metal realm, going through multiple genres, showing the breadth of influence Hämärä truly has. This is an impressive offering, showcasing a lot of talent, not just as songwriters, but ass musicians, also. The songwriting is bold and magnificent. They don’t shy away from anything, plunging headlong into any style they wish, covering a lot of ground musically and lyrically.
- Guitars – 10
- Rhythms – 10
- Vocals – 9
- Songwriting – 10
- Production – 9
- Overall – 9.60